As a lawn care professional, you must be able to properly explain the different types of fertilizers used in home lawns as well as your application techniques and schedule. Below is a simple guide that can be used by homeowners to understand fertilizer applications in their lawns, as well.
The use of fertilizer in the lawns around your home will help to maintain a healthy, lush, and green lawn. Proper fertilization will promote deep root growth which helps to keep your soil moist and cool during hot summer days, keeping the grass from drying out. Regular applications of fertilizer also encourage deep root growth which allows for wider distribution of nutrients, creating a healthier lawn.
The most important things to consider when choosing a fertilizer are the grass type and your goals for that year. Researching your grass type and whether or not it is warm season or cool season, will help you choose the best application timing for fertilization in the spring and fall for optimal results. Cool-season grasses are prepared for spring fertilization when temperatures begin to advance toward or reach 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Warm-season lawns will be best served by fall fertilization when their days start to get shorter and the air begins to cool off. It is important not to fertilize your warm-season grass too early, as this could lead to a late-season dormancy which will keep the grass from going into winter.
What is inside fertilizer?
Fertilizer is made up of three main components. The first component is the plant food, which makes up between 5-10% of fertilizer products such as NPK(Nitrogen, Phosphate, and Potash). The second component is a stabilization agent which helps keep the different nutrients in the bag from separating due to moisture conditions and temperature. The final components are filler agents. In fertilizer products, a filler agent can be made of anything from sand(for weight) to bentonite(which adds water retention properties).
How to use/apply Fertilizer
To know how much fertilizer you will need for your lawn, look at the turfgrass analysis results. Turfgrass analysis tells you the amount of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium your lawn is lacking in order to be healthy. The best way to know how much fertilizer you will need for your lawn is by applying 1lbs per 1000 square feet(0.25lbs/100sqft). Once this is done make sure the lawn is watered in order to help the fertilizer reach the roots, since the fertilizer will not be able to move through dry soil. After fertilizing the lawn should only need one more application per year due to its root system reaching optimal growth when fed once a year with a high nitrogen product(such as 27-0-9). If you live in an area that applies a lot of fertilizers in the air for plants such as vegetable gardens, flower gardens, and farms you should consider doing regular applications of fertilizer to help reduce the amount you are being exposed to.
The first mistake which can be made is to over-fertilize your lawn. This will lead to excessive growth of grass with limited nutrients for the roots and leaves, causing it not to have deep roots or achieve full maturity. Another problem that many homeowners encounter when they apply fertilizer is using a fertilizer that is improperly suited for their grass type. This will result in the lawn becoming stressed which can be easily seen by discoloration of the leaves and weakened grass growth.
How to choose a Fertilizer
Firstly, decide what season you want to fertilize your lawn for them growing season. This is important because different types of fertilizer are made specifically for warm or cool weather. Secondly, you will want to research your grass types. For example, cool season grasses include fescue and bluegrass. Warm season grasses are Bermuda and zoysia. Next choose a fertilizer that fits into your budget with both the product and delivery method in mind. Lastly, when deciding on preparations such as corn gluten meal or weed control, consider the size of your lawn as well.
How Fertilizer Works on our Lawns
Fertilizers are typically bought in bags or bulk.(if you use a bulk product make sure it is applied slowly in order to not harm the grass) Both warm and cool season grasses have roots at depth ranging from 2-4 feet. Once fertilizer is applied it will be absorbed by the roots, making its way into the stolons of the grass and then into the leaves and stems. This in turn causes new growth, which is seen as a dark green color on your lawn. In order to achieve optimum growth from fertilization you will need to apply 1-2 pounds of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet. Once the fertilizer has been applied it is important to water thoroughly so that the fertilizer can reach the roots. If you are applying a product that contains weed killer such as corn gluten meal or just in case your lawn has weeds you will want to apply pre-emergent herbicide once a year. This will help reduce the amount of weeds you encounter in your lawn.
Slow release and Fast release fertilizer
It is crucial to understand the purpose and function of fertilizer in order to have a healthy lawn. The main goal of fertilizing your turfgrass is to increase nutrient availability, stimulate root growth, and encourage the growth of new tissue. There are many types of fertilizers available on the market for home lawn use to achieve these goals.
The main ingredient of fertilizer is a plant nutrient that supplies nutrients such as Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus(P), and Potassium(K). These three ingredients are what makeup NPK which is the abbreviation for many different types of fertilizers available on the market. In order to increase availability, you want to apply fertilizers that have a slow-release or controlled release material. These materials are suited for home lawns and will provide nutrients over time instead of all at once thus reducing the chance of overfeeding and nutrient deficiencies.
Slow Release Fertilizers
A slow-release fertilizer is a fertilizer where the nutrients leach out over time. This means that you can apply the fertilizer in one application and it will last for months or even longer depending on what type of slow-release fertilizer you use. The materials used to make slow-release fertilizers are different from other fertilizers and they have their own unique properties. Some of these properties include being less prone to leaching out, having a reduced tendency for burning grass, and being more effective over time.
While slow-release fertilizers are good for increasing nutrient availability, applying these types of fertilizers could have some disadvantages. The main disadvantage is that the nutrients are released at a steady rate; this could lead to problems if the nitrogen is released too fast which will cause burning.
This slow-release fertilizer is made up of polymer-coated pellets. When applied, these pellets will slowly release nitrogen over time and will help stimulate root growth, increase nutrient availability and encourage new tissue growth.
Fast Release Fertilizers
A fast-release fertilizer is a fertilizer where the nutrients are available immediately after application. While these types of fertilizers are ideal for the quick results they provide, they generally do not last as long and could cause problems if applied in one application. These fertilizers release all of its nutrients immediately upon contact with the soil so you will want to apply them in smaller amounts multiple times throughout the season in order to avoid over-feeding. The main benefits of fast-release fertilizers are that you have immediate results, can add nutrients quickly and fertilizer is readily available for the plant to use.
Possible Problems: There are many possible problems associated with fast-release fertilizers. One problem could be that if they are applied all in one application, it could lead to over-feeding or deficiencies. Different types of fast-release fertilizers have different sizes, shapes, and coatings which could lead to uneven application thus causing a patchy appearance or uneven growth throughout the season.
Some quick-release fertilizers can cause burning if they are applied too early in the spring when the temperature is still cool. These types of fertilizers are also great for adding nutrients to the soil and could cause problems if they are applied too late in the season because it could potentially slow down growth during the fall and winter months.
Organic and Inorganic Fertilizer
Although both organic and inorganic fertilizers can provide a large number of nutrients for your lawn, there are some benefits and disadvantages to using either one. Consider what you want out of your fertilizer and what would be best for the environment or ecosystem around you before choosing which fertilizer will work best for you.
Organic fertilizers contain ingredients that comes from a natural source. These are generally derived from plant or animal waste products such as manure or city sludge. These types of fertilizers have to be broken down by the bacteria found in soil before they can release nutrients for the plants to use.
Commercial organic fertilizer is made up of both a mineral and an organic substance in a blend usually of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. This type of fertilizer contains beneficial microbes which will help grow healthy roots in your lawn by breaking down organic material into inorganic forms. Organic fertilizers are not only good for the environment but also good for your lawn because they provide a number of benefits such as improving nutrient availability.
Organic fertilizers have a number of other advantages over the inorganic type. They are easily available and not very costly. Most organic fertilizers can be readily applied to lawns or garden beds by simply spreading them evenly over the desired area and watering thoroughly.
Although organic fertilizers are more environmentally friendly than their counterparts, they still have some disadvantages that you need to take into consideration. Some types of organic fertilizers need to be applied often because they break down so slowly, and then have a short duration of effectiveness. Since some inorganic fertilizers provide nutrients more quickly than their organic counterparts they can also work faster with plants which may cause irreversible damage if you use too much or apply it at the wrong time of year.
Inorganic fertilizers are made up of synthetic substances that release nutrients soon after they are applied to the soil. Many inorganic fertilizers also include a slow-release material so that the fertilizer will slowly make its way through the soil, and all at once which will make all of the nutrients available at once.
Inorganic fertlizers are generally easier to use than their organic counterpart. They can be purchased inexpensively and are effective for a long period of time. The nutrients in an inorganic fertilizer have the ability to travel through the soil and evenly distribute themselves throughout every part of your lawn, leaving you with a lush green carpet that is free from any dying sections or brown patches.
However, there are some downfalls to using this type of fertilizer as well. Some inorganic fertilizers may contain chemicals that can be damaging to the environment or poisonous to humans and animals. In some cases they may also disrupt soil conditions, which will cause problems over an extended period of time, such as a loosening of the structure of the soil and the prevention of helpful microorganisms.
If you decide to use an inorganic fertilizer on your lawn it is imperative that you follow all instructions carefully and be aware of what side effects may occur even if they are not present at your particular location. In addition, since many inorganic fertilizers quickly supply large amounts of nutrients that are immediately available to the plant, they can cause a large amount of damage if you have an immature or very young lawn and apply too much.
Why is it important to fertilize my lawn?
The simple answer is that a healthy, well-nourished lawn will be more resistant to weeds and insects, and will also grow faster. It can also help you save on other costs of maintaining your property such as having to cut the grass more frequently and treat for weeds. It also adds to the appearance of your property.
What are some other lawn fertilizers available?
There are a number of commercial types of fertilizer that can be purchased in almost any store, but if you want to use something that won’t harm the environment, or maybe you just want to save a little money, there are alternatives. These include compost tea, extracts from seaweed or manure, and even urine.
How do I start fertilizing my lawn?
The first thing you need to do is get the soil tested so that you know how much of each nutrient it needs. You may also want to aerate your lawn first if you don’t already do this regularly. If you are using a slow-release fertilizer or applying compost tea, it is best to apply in the early spring or late fall so that the nutrients have time to be absorbed by the roots before conditions dry out in the summer.